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Five lessons on activism from a coal miner’s daughter

In the new book Ecoliterate, authors Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow argue that integrating emotional, social, and ecological intelligence leads to more effective environmental education and more effective activism. Here's an excerpt from the book about one inspiring activist.

Teri Blanton. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org.)

Teri Blanton grew up on a dirt road in Harlan County, Ky. The daughter of one coal miner and sister of another who died in a mining accident, Blanton left briefly to marry, and then returned at 25 as a single mother of two. She bought a few acres of land behind her parents’ house and settled into a mobile home with her children and two big dogs. For years, she didn’t think twice about coal -- until her kids, who waited for the school bus on the same road traveled by coal trucks, started complaining.

“You know, my son would say, ‘Our shoes get dirty before we get to school,’” Blanton recalls. “And, one morning, he told me, ‘Somebody has to drive us across this part of the road every day, because the coal muck is there.’ I went down there, and I’d seen it,” she says, “and it was just disgusting.”

Blanton called the county highway department to ask that they clean up the sludge, even by simply digging a ditch so it would run off to the side of the road rather than pool near the school bus stop. Instead, a coal truck appeared outside her mobile home and circled it all day.

“I called the road department dude back,” she recalls, “and said, ‘By any chance, did you call the mining company?’”

When he said yes, she asked to speak to his supervisor, whose only response was, “Lady, you have to learn to live with this if you live in a coal mining town.”

“I beg to differ,” she said. “My kids aren’t wading through muck to get on the school bus.”

Then she told the mining company that if they thought sending a coal truck to circle her home all day would intimidate her, they had another thing coming. “I don’t know why I felt so fearless,” she notes. “I probably should have been afraid, you know, but I wasn’t.”

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Seven lessons from nature on how to make change

Look closely -- what can you learn?Photo: Steve WallThe Center for Ecoliteracy has worked for more than 15 years to make schools greener. During the course of our work, collaborating with thousands of educators and change agents, we've learned invaluable lessons about how to tackle the challenge of changing often-entrenched systems. We're pleased to share those lessons here, to help people who want to make change anywhere.  The first guiding principle of our work at the Center for Ecoliteracy is "nature is our teacher." Taking nature as our teacher requires thinking in terms of systems, one of nature's basic patterns. …

Read more: Living